Opinion: ASU baseball’s Eli Lingos will be the hardest to replace next season

The senior has been the ace of pitching staff for most of the 2018 season

To say the 2018 ASU baseball season has been a disappointment might be a bit of an understatement. 

The team’s 17-22 record might not look as bad as it is, but the season has been marred by inefficiency and underperformance. As a storied Division I program, ASU’s fans have become accustomed to success, so a second consecutive season under .500 isn’t a good look. 

ASU could be in for a rude awakening next year if junior Gage Canning leaves after this season for Major League Baseball, but senior Eli Lingos is going to be the most difficult player for head coach Tracy Smith to replace — assuming he is still the head coach next season. 

Lingos' value doesn't come from his overpowering stuff or dominance every time he takes the mound. His value lies in his consistency. 

This season, Lingos is pitching to a 2.89 ERA with 60 strikeouts in 65.1 innings. He has a complete game shutout against Washington State University under his belt and has been someone ASU can rely upon. 

His fastball velocity isn’t anything special, and his breaking pitches are slightly above average. But his experience and control is what helps him keep hitters off-balance.

“When I’ve spoken to him, he’s very much about coming out prepared,” said Michael Baron, ASU baseball beat reporter for The State Press. “He has a high level of confidence on the mound and is more of a lead-by-example type, both in practice and in the games.”

Another reason Lingos will be missed so much next year is ASU’s overall lack of pitching depth. 

Outside of Lingos, junior Sam Romero and freshman Boyd Vander Kooi — who has battled injuries this season — no pitcher has really stepped up and established himself as a future ace of the staff.

Vander Kooi showed flashes early in the season, but he was roughed up at UCLA, got hurt shortly thereafter, and hasn't pitched in a month. Sophomore Spencer Van Scoyoc had a disastrous start to the season as a starter and has since been relegated to bullpen duty. 

Romero has done a nice job filling in when needed, but he doesn’t project as a rotation anchor. The pitching staff is a weakness for the team and will remain one as long as this trend continues.

Graphic published on Wednesday, April 25, 2018.

“The void that ASU has to fill (within the pitching staff) cannot be understated,” Baron said. “They’re going to have to find a new ace and a new weekend arm, especially.”

Vander Kooi and Romero will likely be top candidates to fill two of the three spots, but with the third spot still up in the air, it raises a lot of questions about the Sun Devils’ pitching moving forward. 

Without Lingos there to serve as a reliable arm who can take the ball every weekend without fail, ASU could find itself in a similar spot record-wise next year at this time.

As for Lingos’ future after college, it’s unlikely he’ll be viewed as a serious prospect by MLB teams. Unfortunately for him, there are a lot more younger players with higher ceilings and bigger upsides teams would be more willing to draft. 

That’s not to say he might not find his way in an organization’s farm system at some point, but he’s not a sure bet.

“I don’t think this is necessarily the end of the line for him,” Baron said. “While the numbers don’t dazzle, he’s very efficient. He has shown signs of making the right pitch at the right time. (MLB teams) can’t have too many arms.” 

Reach the columnist at Steven.Slobodzian@asu.edu or follow @PSlobodzianASU on Twitter.

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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors. 

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